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Friday, November 11, 2011

Postcard from New York

This was the Brooklyn trip. Went out there three times. We got to try some great restaurants, including Franny’s, James, and Prime Meats. But it was either nighttime or snowing (in October, thank you), so I never really saw the neighborhoods. But the rents are much lower than they are in Manhattan (unless you live in Brooklyn Heights, of course). No wonder most folks we met out there are under 50. My buddy Andrew Blum took me for a ride around some of the neighborhoods before we had dinner, and I see I have a lot to explore!

Occupy Wall Street had not thinned out since the first snow. Perhaps there are fewer homeless than our local Occupy camps. My impression of Wall Street was less pot, more activists. The place was very orderly, with walkways, a library, a kitchen, and other places to congregate. Sure, there are some nuts, but the place had a very peaceful air. One fellow put a rainbow peace symbol over my head and barely bothered me for a donation.

Best restaurant meal was at The Dutch. An expense account kind of place, but the service is attentive and personal, and someone really cares about the food. The recipes are not extravagantly complex, just fresh and well executed. They also care about their cocktails. The sure sign is that the Manhattans are stirred in a crystal beaker, not shaken. The décor is a mix of mod lanterns and old-style wood enclosures. Perfect fall kind of place.

For the more adventuresome (and bargain) diner, there is Han Bat at 53 West 35th between Fifth and Sixth. Unremarkable but inoffensive interior. Lots of kimchi. I was surprised when what looked like eggplant turned out to be mackerel. I noticed that they brought the Asian patrons glasses of hot tea and white patrons cold water. The Gobdol Bi Bim Bad was very filling and warm. The best bit is the cooked rice at the bottom of the clay pot. But be careful about your dental work.

Stopped in for a drink with my long time editor pal Kristen Richards at The Brasserie on the opposite side of the Seagrams Building from The Four Seasons. This was one of the designs that made Diller Scofidio & Renfro’s reputation. As you walked down the grand stair a delayed image of you entering the restaurant was projected on the screens above the bar. Andy Warhol’s idea turned into a restaurant - you get to be famous on TV for a few seconds! Brilliant idea, but it wasn’t working. Just static TV on the screens the night we were there. The bar was crowded, but the restaurant was almost empty.

When the winter doldrums kick in, the place to go shopping is the new Marimekko on Fifth near 23rd (surrounded by Mario Batali’s mad Eataly Emporium). It was full of young folks looking for the stuff their moms used go on about—and their moms! I even popped for a crazy pair of Marimekko Converse tennis shoes. And got the very same shoulder bag I bought in high school at Design Research. Jack Spade for the D/R set. The other recent big retail opening was Uniqlo near the Museum of Modern Art. You couldn’t go two feet without seeing a white bag with the store’s distinctive red chop. But I think it’s all bright T-shirts and cashmere sweaters for the young skinny set who are bored with the monochromatic tendencies of Muji. We favor bright caftans.

On the art front, there is more than one man can do in a few days. The blockbuster show for contemporary art lovers is the de Kooning retrospective at the Modern. You almost need two trips, it is so overwhelming. Watching him almost disappear at the end is heartbreaking. I have never been a huge fan of the “Women” series. But I loved the early abstractions. It’s up until January 9, 2012. Go.

A review can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/16/arts/design/de-kooning-a-retrospective-at-moma-review.html?pagewanted=all

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

For the die hard Richard Serra fan, there are two new monster pieces at the Gagosian Gallery. I have never seen so many guards in a private art gallery! They seemed to be there to tell kids not to run through the sculptures. If you are eleven, I think that would be the natural response to the towering bending curving fluid hard objects. Overheard comments included “We’ve been in this open space,” “No we haven’t,” “Yes we have”; “Is this one or two pieces of art?”; “No running, this is an art gallery.” The signed exhibition posters are sold out. The pieces put me in a kind of trance. What I want to see is a YouTube video of them installing these pieces. The show is up until November 26. You can read the review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/06/arts/design/richard-serras-sculpture-at-gagosian-gallery-review.html

For those of you who read my post on Justin Spring and Sam Steward on my other blog, you might enjoy a visit to the exhibit entitled “Obscene Diary: The Secret Archive of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist and Pornographer” at the Sex Museum. The place definitely has a kind of illicit vibe—like a high-end peepshow. I wasn’t crazy about the muslin wall treatment over Steward’s sketches, and the videos were placed too close to each other, so it was hard to concentrate on any one tape. I really wanted to hear the older Sam Steward interviewed in his Berkeley cottage. Despite those criticisms, it was great to see his index cards, notebooks, and other ephemera. Sam was one compulsive guy – and perhaps unintentionally, an artist. His famous stud file is enclosed in a thick acrylic box as if there were jewels inside the box within a box. There was also a fine sketch of Steward by Don Bachardy, which I had never seen. I am not sure that the show will interest people who have not read Justin Spring’s excellent biography or who don’t at least know of Steward, aka Phil Andros and Phil Sparrow.

As tattoo artist Phil Sparrow, Sam taught a young Don Hardy, now known as Ed Hardy. And some of Hardy’s tattoo prints were on display at the annual International Fine Print Dealers Association’s Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory at the Shark’s Ink booth (www.sharksink.com).

The Park Avenue Armory’s main space is wonderfully run down, but the anterooms have been restored to their Louis Tiffany glory. This year there was a lot of Louise Bourgeois to be seen. Besides the Tauba Auerbach prints at Paulson Bott’s booth, (www.paulsonbottpress.com), some of the highlights of the show were the Richard Serra prints at Gemini G.E.L., the perfect little Kiki Smith flowers shown at Harlan & Weaver, the bright Polly Apfelbaum flowers at Durham and the milky world of Dan Brice at Tamarind. After the opening night, we had dinner at JoJo, the Upper East Side outlet of Jean Georges. Friendly but incompetent service. Great décor. If you go late, try the $38 prix fixe!

Somehow we found time to see the second leg of the High Line, which is quieter than the first. More long boardwalks, many raised above the bed of the railroad track. It takes you all the way to 30th Street. The complete walk now stretches 1.45 miles. This would be at the top of my to-do list for any trip to New York. Check out www.thehighline.org.

We will have to wait until the next trip to see the 9/11 memorial. I think I want to see it when all the landscaping is in. Should you want to go, book your tickets well in advance at www.911memorial.org.

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